Iowa radio announcer Gary Dolphin suspended for basketball season after 'King Kong' reference
Longtime radio voice Gary Dolphin has been suspended from broadcasting Iowa basketball games for the rest of the season.
The action comes following comments that Dolphin made during the postgame portion of Iowa’s radio broadcast of Tuesday’s home game against Maryland, in which he referred to the Terrapins’ Bruno Fernando, who is black, as “King Kong.”
The suspension, announced by Learfield Sports Properties (which owns the rights to Hawkeye broadcasts), is for basketball only. Dolphin has been Iowa’s play-by-play voice of Iowa football, as well, for the past 22 years.
The reference to King Kong, a fictional gorilla in a 1933 movie by that name, happened as Dolphin and analyst Bobby Hansen wrapped the Hawkeyes' 66-65 loss, in which Maryland made 12 of its final 20 3-point attempts — and then Fernando (who stands 6-foot-10, 245 pounds) recorded the go-ahead tip-in with 7.8 seconds remaining.
“Twelve 3s on 22 made baskets. That’s some pretty good long-range shooting," Dolphin said. "And then Fernando was King Kong at the end of the game.”
Hansen replied, “Yeah, he was. And they had done a really good job, Gary, for the most part rebounding.”
Dolphin released a statement in the release, apologizing for his language.
“During the broadcast, I used a comparison when trying to describe a talented Maryland basketball player. In no way did I intend to offend or disparage the player," Dolphin said. "I take full responsibility for my inappropriate word choice and offer a sincere apology to him and anyone else who was offended. I wish the Iowa Hawkeye players, coaches and fans all the very best as they head into the final stretch of the season. I will use this as an opportunity to grow as a person and learn more about unconscious bias."
A Maryland spokesman on Friday said there would not be a statement from either Fernando or Terrapins athletics director Damon Evans about Dolphin's comments or suspension.
As most around Iowa know, this marks the second on-air incident this basketball season that put Dolphin in public hot water.
Dolphin was suspended by the University of Iowa and Learfield Sports for two games for negative comments he made about the basketball program and backup guard Maishe Dailey that were inadvertently aired during Iowa’s Nov. 27 game against Pittsburgh.
In that incident, during what was supposed to be a commercial break, Dolphin was telling Hansen that Iowa needed to recruit better guards, then singled out Dailey to make his point.
"We get Maishe Dailey," Dolphin said. "Dribbles into a double-team with his head down. God."
What made that story blow up even more was further comments by Iowa athletics director Gary Barta that there were “ongoing tensions” between Dolphin and head coach Fran McCaffery.
McCaffery also lashed out at Dolphin’s November comments, calling them “inexcusable.”
At a later press conference, Barta indicated the parties were working through their tensions. "He made a mistake, and fortunately we worked through it," Barta said then.
Since the first suspension, Hansen — not Dolphin — has handled the postgame locker-room interview with McCaffery.
Jim Albracht and Hansen will call Iowa's games for the remainder of the season. The Hawkeyes were scheduled to face Indiana at 8:15 p.m. Friday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.